Physical Disabilities Digital Accessibility Guide For Web/App Designers

Sufficient Spacing and Size

23% of people with a disability have dexterity problems. For these people, using a mouse can be difficult. Even more so if the digital content they want to access has overly small buttons or links.

When creating links, make sure they’re a few words long. If your words are longer, then aim for around two. If your words are shorter, then use three to four. Accessible links should be approximately two inches long.

Similarly, buttons on your digital platform need to be big enough. When thinking about size, consider movement. Can you still hover over the button even after moving your mouse around slightly? If so, then your buttons are probably an adequate size.

Spacing is another important factor. Some people with physical disabilities are prone to shaking or sudden movement. Make sure that all components have enough distance between them to accommodate this. Sufficient spacing will prevent clicking on unwanted links accidentally.

Disable Motion-Activated Commands

Often, when designing for convenience we forget to think about accessibility. In a world of extreme technological advancement, designers all always looking for ways to improve user experience. Often this is done by finding ‘quicker’ ways to activate commands.

Motion-activated commands allow you to skip a song or make a call without even unlocking your phone. Sounds convenient, right? Sometimes they can be. However, if you can’t disable them then they become a big accessibility problem.

For example, AirPods come with a feature that allows you to pause, play, skip, and replay tracks just by tapping the earphone. This can be handy for people on the go. However, for someone who experiences ticks or spasms where the ear and shoulder touch frequently, this can make the AirPods unusable.

Over 12 million people worldwide experience spasticity. For the majority, motion commands will seriously negatively impact the usability of the tech. Therefore, it’s important that motion commands can be easily deactivated and that a simple in-phone alternative is provided.

Autocomplete Features

Sometimes, people with physical disabilities may have difficulties with typing. This can make tasks such as filling out forms a slow and annoying process. Particularly for people that are using tools such as mouth wands, assistive keyboards, or a switch device. It becomes stressful when these forms are put on a time limit.

Autocomplete means that any information previously entered is saved, this information is then automatically re-entered the next time it’s needed. With just a click, you can complete an entire form in seconds. Not only is this convenient, but it helps increase the accessibility of your web or app.

Autocomplete features aren’t just useful for forms. They are also commonly used to quickly log in. Most websites and apps will save your username and password, meaning that you only need to click on the box to fill in the components. This reduces the amount needed to type or to navigate with a mouse.

Some people will keep their information and passwords in a document. They can then copy and paste it whenever they need it. Your system should accept copy-and-pasted text on both the form and sign-in fields.

Speech Recognition

For individuals who are extremely limited in their keyboard use, speech recognition allows them to access the web independently.

It’s becoming more common to see apps and websites adding a speech recognition feature to their search bar.

No Time Limits

Time limits are annoying for everyone. However, they can make tasks very difficult for individuals with disabilities.

People with physical disabilities, particularly those with dexterity issues, may take more time to complete tasks such as filling out forms or checking out. When you add a time limit to the mix, we have a serious accessibility issue on our hands.

If time limits are essential for security purposes, the user must then be notified that there is a time limit in place and when it’s about to run out. Not everyone will be able to fill everything out within your time limit. Therefore, you must allow users to extend their time. According to WCAG guidelines, you must give the user at least 20 seconds to decide to extend their time limit.

Keyboard Accessible

Many individuals with mobility issues are unable to use a mouse. Instead, some of them will use the tabbing feature on their keyboard to access what they need. Therefore, all elements on your website should be accessible solely from a keyboard.

Make sure that the keyboard navigator focuses on each element in an order that makes sense. It should match up with the visuals on the page. Generally, this means going from left to right and then from top to bottom.

Your website should have a good, simple layout. Everything should be labeled clearly and placed in a spot that makes sense. This will reduce confusion or difficulty during the tabbing process.

Using keyboard navigation can often be a lengthy process. So, use headings. By pressing h/shift+h, keyboard users can focus solely on the heading elements on a page. Accurate and distinct headings will allow users to scan through large amounts of information and identify what they need.

It’s also important that any components are not reliant on cording keys. This is when the user needs to hold down multiple keys at the same time to complete a function.

Biometric Login

The traditional username and password login format can be both inaccessible and time- consuming. The introduction of biometric methods means that users just need to be present to authenticate entry. This can be done through face ID, fingerprint authentication, and voice - just to name a few.

Face ID is particularly useful for individuals who have paralysis or dexterity problems. Ensuring that your app is compatible with biometric login makes signing in easier for everyone. Face ID is particularly useful for individuals with paralysis or dexterity problems.

Multi-Orientation Use

One in 50 Americans experiences some form of paralysis in their lifetime. In the USA, more than 3 million people have a disability in their hands or forearms. For these individuals, rotating their devices around can be very difficult to impossible. Similarly, some people may have their tablet or phone attached to their wheelchairs. It will be fixed in this position and cannot be reorientated.

When an app only supports one orientation, it makes itself inaccessible to these people. Unless multi-orientation hinders use, then an app should work in both portrait and landscape formats.

Drag and Drop Features

For people with dexterity issues, mouse control can be difficult. Drag and drop features rely on steady mouse control. The strength needed to hold the left click down in addition to the control needed to move it to a precise location presents problems for many people with physical disabilities.

Drag-and-drop features should never be the only option available. There should always be an alternative that can be accessed solely through a keyboard or limited mouse use.